Friday, December 21, 2012

Compassion at Christmas

Christmas is in four days. By now the tree is trimmed, the stockings are hung on the mantle, and the gifts are nearly wrapped under the tree.

No?

Not at my house either. The tree is up, but the gifts haven't been wrapped just yet. Heck, who am I kidding? There's still more gifts to buy.

And I'm ok with that.

Christmas is more than a tree. It's more than stockings filled with candy, cheap perfume, and gift cards. The reason we celebrate Christmas is beyond the gifts we exchange with family and friends.

Christmas is and always will be about Jesus. Immanuel, God with us. He dwelled among us, walked and talked with us, helped and healed us, loved us.

He fed us.

Clothed us.

Freed us.

He had compassion on us, extending grace and mercy.

And, in turn, He asks us to do the same.

Christmas is the perfect time to give gifts. Not just to family and friends, but to folks around the world who need a helping hand. Folks who need to see Immanuel, God with us. Folks who need fed, clothed, set free.

You can give a gift this Christmas that will have a far greater impact than you can imagine.

Will you consider purchasing a gift that will change lives? Compassion International makes it easy. All you have to do is look through their gift catalog and pick a gift of your choosing. You can buy seeds that enable families in Africa to grow their own food to eat as well as sell for income. You can buy medical services for families who would otherwise go without. You can buy goats and chickens. Education and career opportunities, HIV testing, and parasite treatment.

Click here to browse the Compassion gift catalog------> http://www.compassion.com/catalog.htm?referer=128060

Compassion has asked me to raise $100 to help them reach their goal of $20,000. If just 10 of my friends would give just $10, I would reach my goal.

Will you be the one to give?

If you give, please leave a comment below. Thank you!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jolly Jingle

Today I have the honor of being a guest at my friend Tim Gallen's blog - The Daily Gallen. Tim is a gifted writer who challenges me both in my faith and in writing. His "fiction Friday" posts are exceptional, and I won't be surprised one bit when he becomes a published author.

Tim invited me to share as part of his 12 days of Christmas series. I'm excited to share with you one of my favorite Christmas memories: Jolly Jingle. Click here to hop on over to Tim's blog to read my post!

Giving Used to Be Simple

This is Monday, but in place of my normal "Manic Monday" posts I am partnering with Compassion International's #ItsAboutGiving blog campaign. Hope you enjoy!
 


Glue sticks. Construction paper. Glitter. Cotton balls. Pine cones. Magic markers. Pipe cleaners.

These were the tools of making the best gifts as a child. Simple. Cheap. Made with love.

I vividly remember creating Santa's beard out of cotton balls by gluing them onto a paper plate. His eyes, nose, and mouth I carefully drew on the plate with magic markers. Then I painstakingly cut his hat out of red construction paper, using caution to make it just so. To finish, more cotton balls were glued to his hat to make Santa more festive.

Giving as a child was simple and sweet. The gifts were made with care out of ordinary, every day items. There was no stressing out or worrying whether mom or dad would like the gift. Gift giving was easy because each gift was made with love and given joyfully. Mom and dad would accept the gift with tears and treasure it forever, saving it long after the cotton balls had yellowed and the glue stopped sticking.

Gift giving today has become much more difficult. There's the constant stress over who to buy for, what to buy or make, how much to spend. The list of who to buy for seems to get longer each year as families grow and we make new friends. The items to buy changes from toys to games to clothes to electronics. To make things easier, the thought of buying gift cards crosses the mind, but quickly disappears as Christmas is supposed to be personal not impersonal.

What happened to the simplicity of gift giving? What happened to giving a gift that will be treasured long after it's been given?

The greatest gift of all came in the form of a baby. Born in a barn, surrounded by dirt and filth, God gave us His son - Jesus. In turn, Jesus gives each of us the gift of life, of grace and mercy, of love. Simple yet profound. Incredingly meaningful. Gifts that last all of eternity.

This Christmas, let's bring back the simplicity of giving gifts.

Will you consider giving a gift that is simple yet meaningful, one that will be treasured for a lifetime? Check out the Compassion gift catalog and consider giving the gift of food, water, or medical care.

What will you do this year to make gift giving simple yet meaningful?



Monday, December 10, 2012

Giving Means Everything

Today is most definitely Monday. But I'm foregoing my typical Manic Monday post for something different. Today I'm partnering with Compassion International and their #itsaboutgiving campaign

Compassion's Christmas Gift Catalog

'Tis the season for twinkling lights. Strands of garland. Shiny glass balls, paper snowflakes, snowmen made from cotton balls.

'Tis the season for fresh baked sugar cookies. Peppermint bark. Hard tack candy. Hot chocolate.

'Tis the season for slow dancing in the living room lit only by the tree and stealing kisses beneath the mistletoe.

'Tis the season for remembering. For celebrating. For giving.

We remember the angels telling Mary how she would soon give birth to the Savior. We remember Mary and Joseph leaving home for a safer place to live. We remember the innkeeper saying their was no room for them. We remember the smelly, animal-filled barn where Jesus was born.

We celebrate the gift of life, of hope, of grace, of love.

We join with the Magi who gave. We join them in giving to family, to friends. We join them in giving to the poor, the needy, the lonely, and the forgotten.

Giving means everything.

John 3:16, the most quoted Scripture of all time, reminds us of why we give - because God gave. God gave His one and only Son, the best gift anyone could receive. He gave all of us the gift of life, of hope, of grace, of love.

Christmas comes around once a year, and it is good and right that we should remember and celebrate.

But giving? Giving is a lifestyle.

Giving means collecting food, clothing, school supplies, etc. throughout the year for those who are in need.

Giving means cooking a meal for a neighbor, leaving a generous tip for the waitress, or volunteering at the local crisis pregnancy center.

For me, giving means serving at a local soup kitchen on a regular basis. But it doesn't stop there. It means getting to know the folks I'm serving. It means sharing a meal with them, listening to their stories, praying with them.

For me, giving means sponsoring a little girl in India through Compassion International. It means so much more than supporting her financially. It means encouraging her to learn and grow. It means being able to share Jesus with her and her family.

This Christmas will you join me in making giving a lifestyle? 


Monday, December 3, 2012

Calm after the Crazy


Hello, Monday.

You didn't fail to live up to your name.

Manic Monday.

Despite the mania, there was peace. There was calm after the crazy. Home became my refuge, a place of peace in the midst of the madness.

Dinner with my husband is my good for the day. Precious time with my beloved is always good, but far too rare. Tonight's fare was simple, our conversation light. Quiet and peaceful.

Tonight I'm thankful these little things.

Tell me, friends, what are you thankful for this evening?

Monday, November 26, 2012

A River of Blessings


Hello Monday.

Yesterday I had the privilege of hearing my brother teach at church. He had the tough job of tackling a subject none of us really wants to talk about, especially in church - money. Money, like Monday, kind of gets a bad rap. It's said that money is the "root of all evil." Money is also called a "master," and it's up to us who we're going to serve - God or money. 

But I digress...

In the midst of his teaching on money, my brother shared about a Jewish tradition called Havdalah. During Havdalah wine is poured out into a glass until it overflows, then a prayer of blessing and thanks is given to God for creating the vine that created the wine.

This visual representation of blessing really struck me as profound.

I often visualize my glass as half-empty or half-full depending on the day. (On Monday, I always try to see it as half-full, otherwise I'll be miserable.)

The truth is, my glass is neither half-empty or half-full. My glass overflows. Is my life filled with struggles and things/situations that I must overcome? Absolutely. But, oh, my life is filled with so many blessings. So many that if I were to sit down and count them, it would take days or weeks to name them all.

Yes, it's Monday and it can be difficult to choose to find the good and the beautiful on days like today. So today I choose to visualize a glass of wine overflowing into a river of blessings. Because that is the truth of my life - it is filled with a river of blessings.

As you look at your life, is your glass half-empty, half-full, or overflowing?





Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Changing the World, One Child at a Time

Growing up, I was much like any other girl. I dreamed of one day finding the man of my dreams, getting married, and having children. I doodled hearts and flowers on the sides of my spiral notebooks with the name of my latest crush, circling our names together with hearts, declaring we would be together "4-ever."  My close friends and I would daydream about our perfect lives, including our perfect children. We imagined how many children we would have, even going so far as naming them. (I was to have 4 children - a set of twins, Tyler Ray & Taylor Renee, a boy, James, and a girl, Mercedes.)

In my early twenties, I gave up the notion of "finding" the man of my dreams and vowed to wait for God to bring him to me. I prayed for my future husband, and continued to dream of one day having children. In those days, my life revolved around serving God on the mission field, and my heart became open to the idea of adoption. Many of my missionary friends had either been adopted into their family or were adopting children from all over the world. At some point, I committed my heart to adopting, if God ever opened a door to do so.

At thirty, my husband and I were married. We have been married for just a little longer than 5 years, and we have no children of our own. Instead of dreaming to have four children, my heart says one would be more than enough to love and cherish all the rest of my days. Perhaps a little girl to dress in pink frilly clothes and matching bows in her hair. 

This year, my heart opened to another idea of "having" children. There are thousands of children across the globe who have families, moms and dads who love them, but cannot meet their daily needs of food, water, and education. Children whose families live on less than $2 a day. Children whose needs can be met through a simple gift of $38 a month. Children whose lives will forever be impacted by that gift, and the encouragement that can be sent through letters and pictures, prayer, and maybe - some day - through finally meeting face-to-face.

In September, I began sponsoring an eight year old little girl named Mounika from India. She is absolutely beautiful, and I'm honored to be a part of her life in some small way. My dream for this little girl is to grow up and fulfill her dreams, whatever they may be. My hope is that her life will be so impacted by the love of Jesus that she will forever be changed, and she will be a beacon of hope to those around her. 

This past week, a group of bloggers traveled to Peru to witness firsthand the Compassion International ministry near Lima. One particular post from Shaun Groves caught my eye, and I want to share it with you in hopes that you will be inspired. Sometimes we think in order to change the world we have to do something huge. But, Mother Teresa says that "small things done with great love will change the world." Read Shaun's post and know that sometimes changing the world comes by doing something small, like sponsoring a Compassion child.



Monday, November 19, 2012

Good Attitudes Make the Day Better



Another Monday come and gone.

The office was crazy and chaotic, more so than normal due to being short staffed. The phone did its normal thing - ring off the hook - and the door never seemed to stay closed as people came to do business.

It wasn't anything that a caramel sundae from Dairy Queen couldn't fix. ;)

What made today a good day wasn't the ice cream, though. What made today good was the simple fact that the staff - all four of us - maintained a good attitude throughout the day. We worked together as a team. We made sure to help each other so that no one felt stressed out or overwhelmed.

Working together is a wonderful thing.

If you're anything like me, I'm independent and hate to ask for help. I think I can do it all by myself.

The truth is, I need help from time to time. I need a team of family and friends, folks I know I can count on to ensure that I don't get stressed out or overwhelmed.

From the beginning, God knew that man would not do well to be alone. He knew we would need each other. I don't know about you, but I'm thankful for God's wisdom in this.

Aren't you thankful that God chose to create mankind & not simply man?




Monday, November 12, 2012

All Things New


 
 
Oh, Monday.

One of these days I hope you'll give me a break.

I mean, really. Can't we just get along?

On this rainy, dreary day, I'm not even going to pretend there's anything good about you. The sky is doing for me what I cannot. Crying, cleansing, refreshing. Doing only what God can do.

He makes all things new.

That's my only hope today. In my life, the life of my family & friends, the lives of those only He knows.

What's your hope for today?



Monday, November 5, 2012

Adventure Awaits


Ah, Monday.

A week ago I couldn't wait for you to be over.  But I've been waiting for this Monday for a couple of weeks now. It's going to a good day. A day full of fun, friends, and first-times.

Today has officially been dubbed "Ted Dekker Day."

(As I typed that out, a scene from Empire Records flashed before my eyes.... "It's Rex Manning Day.")

Ted Dekker is one of my favorite authors, and today my best friend and I are taking a mini road trip to Kentucky to meet him at one of his book signings!!  If you've never heard of him, may I suggest a few books? The Circle Series are, in my humble opinion, his best books. Then there's the Lost books, Skin, Three, Forbidden, Mortal. Last night I started reading The Priest's Graveyard, and though I've not finished, I highly recommend, because it's so good!  My husband, who is not a reader, started reading Bonemans Daughters a few days ago and loves it.

Today, on another Manic Monday, adventure awaits!  

Hope you all have a blessed, adventure-some day.  Feel free to tell me about it in the comments below!





Monday, October 29, 2012

Much More


Hello, Monday.

Thanks for living up to your name. You never cease to give me material for my Manic Monday Challenge posts.

Today began with the realization that my furnace was broken. I didn't freak out, didn't lose all hope, or any of that nonsense. I did make a futile wish that God would heal my furnace, but that didn't happen.  

He did much more than that.  He spared my life, my husband's, and the lives of our pets.

Lest you think I'm overreacting, here's the scoop on the furnace.  The repairman looked it over and told my husband we were lucky to be alive.  He said that the wrong fuses were installed with our furnace, and instead of kicking the circuit breakers off it burned the fuses and the electrical wiring. Typically when this happens, it causes a house fire.  And our little single wide trailer would have burned down in no time at all.

Thank God that did not happen!

I'm thankful that God spared our lives.  I'm thankful He chose to keep my home from burning down and for keeping my family safe.  I'm thankful for life, with all the joys and challenges that come with it, and for another chance to breathe life into others.  To hopefully encourage someone else to keep going, to keep fighting when you want to give up, to live despite the suffering and hardships you face.  

My friends, I'm also giving myself this pep talk. Life is hard. My life is hard.

I wonder how I'm going to pay the bills that never seem to end.

I wonder if I'm ever going to have a little girl of my own to love.

I wonder if my husband and I will ever stop fighting and just get along.

I cry, scream, and get mad at God for being far away, quiet, and for never answering my pleas.

Yet I hold on to hope. I hold tight to what I know is true, what is right, what is pure.

Jesus.

He is all of those things, my friends.

And today, He spared my life.

If you need encouragement today, let me know in the comment section. I'd love to let you know you're not alone & to pray with you.



Monday, October 22, 2012

What's Good Today?


Dear Monday, I hate you.

But you are not winning the battle today.

You see, I choose to find the good despite of my circumstances.

I choose to see today as a beautiful mess, with all its crooked lines, shadows, and craziness.

He is all that is good about today.  And that is enough.

I wait quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him. (Psalm 62:1)

How was your day friends?




Friday, October 19, 2012

Jake's Story


At the end of August, I reviewed Joe Bunting's new book "Let's Write A Short Story." As part of my review, I declared I was going to write a short story by the end of September.  Well, that never happened.  Fast forward to October, Writer's Unite month, and I said I was going to focus a bit more on my fiction project.  And also work on a short story.

Today I'm giving you a peek into a short story I started working on last week.  I'm hesitant to share this with you as it's not much.  But it's a start.

Here's the interesting thing about this story - it started with an image of a cowboy sitting under a tree. In my mind, I saw this cowboy going to a county fair later in the day with his sweetheart.  At the end of the evening, he was going to propose to her.  When I started typing, the cowboy turned into Jake, and his story does not end with a proposal.  I have no idea how his story is going to end as he is still telling me his story.

With that in mind, I hope you enjoy the beginning of Jake's story.  Feel free to leave feedback.

*****

He reclines under his favorite twin oak tree on the sprawling family ranch, hat pulled down over his eyes, hands folded over his chest, ankles crossed. His jeans dusty and boots muddied, Jake has been hard at work since dawn, like every other day since he turned eighteen. Instead of heading to college as planned, Jake stayed on the family ranch hoping to alleviate some stress.

For the past two years, Jake has risen early to feed chickens and gather eggs, sweep out horse stalls, and tend the garden. He spends his afternoons in the office, managing the books, keeping tabs on funds coming in and going out. Jobs his father used to do.  Before.

A breeze stirred the leaves and threatened to blow Jake’s hat from its resting place. With a groan, he removed his sweat-rimmed hat from his face and sat up. He glanced at his watch, 5:32pm. Jake stood, relishing the last few moments of peace before heading back towards the house. His mother would have dinner ready soon. There was just enough time for him to shower and change.

Dinner with his mother and father was a nightly routine, one they had kept since the day Jake and his sister were born. His parent’s motto was “families who eat together stay together.” Jake didn’t mind. He had never been one to rock the boat. Not like Shaylee.

Jake’s twin sister, Shaylee was the rebel, bucking the rules of the family from an early age. As a two year old, she would repeatedly tell their mother “no,” hands on her tiny hips, shaking her blonde curls. Her blue eyes held a hint of glee at seeing the frustration on their mothers face.  Even then, she relished in causing her mother grief.  

Shaylee was a daddy's girl.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Jackhammer Headache


Another Monday has come and is almost gone.  Thank goodness, right?!

Here in the great state of Ohio it is cold, damp, and just a generally dreary day.

Things at the office were OK. It started off slow, but ended up being rather steady.  The only truly annoying factor was that there were men outside using a jackhammer all afternoon.  Needless to say, I came home with a huge headache.

However, the day hasn't been all that bad.  In fact, my husband surprised me this morning by taking out the trash as I had forgotten to do so last night.  He also didn't argue with me when I asked him to feed Brutus and Twix as I was running late (as usual) for work.  And, he shaved his beard today.  Rather than leaving his hair all over the sink, he made sure the sink was wiped out clean.

I'd say my husband has been pretty wonderful today. Thanks babe!  :)

Monday isn't over yet, but it looks like this evening is going to be a good one, as well.  First up, dinner with my husband.  Then a meeting with some pretty awesome ladies from Centerpoint.  Should be home just in time for a new episode of Castle.  :)

So how was your day?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Does God Know What He's Doing?


Monday has come again.

And with it, chilly temperatures.

My home was quite cold this morning as was the office.  The guy that controls the heat in this office waited two hours to turn the furnace on this morning.  My fingers have just now begun to thaw out.  Thank goodness, as typing with cold, stiff fingers is difficult.

It's afternoon now, and I've already found one good thing about today - heat! :)

There's another good thing about today that I want to share with you.  It's from a devotional called Jesus Calling.  Last night I read the short passage for the day and was reminded why I started the Manic Monday series.  Here's what it says:

Accept each day just as it comes to you, remembering that I am sovereign over your life. Rejoice in this day that I have made, trusting that I am abundantly present in it. Instead of regretting or resenting the way things are, thank Me in all circumstances. Trust Me and don't be fearful; thank Me and rest in My sovereignty.  (1 Peter 5:6-7; Psalm 118:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:18)

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Mondays suck.

Instead of having a pity party, however, it's time to rejoice!  It's time to find the good, positive things about the day and focus on them, remembering that God knows what He is doing.  Life is hard, but God is present in the difficult times.  He is abundantly present.  If nothing else, be thankful for that.

What are you thankful for on this Manic Monday?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October is Writers Unite Month


This summer I declared to the world that I'm a writer.  I started to blog more frequently, even creating a series called the Manic Monday Challenge.  I linked up with other bloggers, such as Lisa Jo Baker and Five Minute Friday, and Eileen Knowles who goes Into The Beautiful each Tuesday.  I even had a couple of guest posting gigs (Inspired by Love & Crazy Love) with Kirsten LeBlanc and Michael Perkins.

All these things are good.  

The above projects have enabled me to write more. They have allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and engage with new people, some who have become friends.

Yet I've lost a bit of my focus along the way.

My hope for my blog was to write about my heart, my passion, my faith.  And to some degree, I've done so.  But I've always focused so much on doing what others are doing, and writing what everyone else is writing.  My true heart and passion hasn't had a chance to come out because I've been trying too hard to be liked, to make friends.

As much as I want to be liked and to make friends, it's time for a change.

My friend Jim decided to start a writing revolution.  During the month of October, writers will unite to focus on writing what we really want to write.  For me, this involves four things:

1) Writing what I know I should be writing - my heart & passion of faith and outreach
2) Writing for an audience of One
3) Writing on my blog, but also in my journal
4) Encouraging other writers

Did you join the revolution? What is one thing you're working on?

P.S. Another thing I will do is work more on my fiction project.  Unfortunately, my fiction project has taken a serious backseat to blogging.  Oh, and remember that short story I said I was going to write by the end of September?  That didn't happen.  Yet.  While I make no promises to write it this month, I really want to write a short story some day soon.  

Monday, October 1, 2012

Wet & Wild Monday


Hello Monday. We meet again.

This fine Monday began in the pre-dawn hours long before the sun peaked behind Mount Logan.  My precious slumber was interrupted by a fervent howl from Brutus, my black and silver Schnauzer baby.  His tummy has been upset for a couple of days, and this morning it caused him to wake early for a bowel movement.  

Lack of sleep coupled with the fact that today is the first of the month hampered any expectation that the day would produce any good.  Add a few dark clouds with a bit of rain, and what do you get?  A wet and wild day.

The office was in bit of a frenzy as is always the case on the first of the month.  The phone was ringing and the door was swinging, all day long. Not to mention the continued search from Friday for a misplaced file (that I am determined to find even if I have to turn the office upside down tomorrow).  

Even in the chaos, good is found.

One of my co-workers is celebrating the birth of a grandchild.

Another is celebrating marriage.

These are good things - birth, marriage, life.

My good came tonight at a meeting.  Seriously.

The leadership team of Centerpoint is simply amazing.  This group of family and friends are dedicated, hard-working, passionate people who genuinely love and care for one another.  Their love for Jesus and people are inspiring.  God couldn't have given me a better group of people to lead with and do life with.  (Love you guys!)

How was your Monday?  Share one good thing from your day in the comments!





Friday, September 28, 2012

Things I Just Don't Understand


Today I'm linking up with Lisa Jo Baker (aka Gypsy Mama) and lots of other folks from around the world for Five Minute Friday.  The rules are simple - set the clock for five minutes and write.  No editing, no backtracking.  Here goes nothing...



Grasp.

There are some things that my mind cannot possibly comprehend.  They are too big, too complex, too crazy for me to understand.

Forgiveness.

Grace.

Mercy.

Love.

The fact that God forgave and continues to forgive my transgressions is far too much for me to understand.

His grace that never ends and His mercy that is new every morning?  Beyond my comprehension.

My Father's unconditional love is unfathomable.

Scripture tells us that there is nothing that will ever separate us from His love.

I can't even begin to grasp that.

Can you?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

You Are Beautiful


The Scenic Route
 
Today I am linking up with Eileen Knowles. Every Tuesday Eileen goes into the beautiful, and today I'm following her.  Feel free to join us!

Life is ____________.

In this moment, life has its ups and downs.  One minute things are going well, no complaints, and the next it seems life is falling a part at the seams.

I wonder how I can make it through one more minute let alone 30 more years of this kind of life.

In the light of day, I smile and pretend every thing is OK.  But in the darkness of the night, my tears fall like streams of water, pooling on my pillow as I fall to sleep.

I wonder if I'll have the strength to make it another day. 

Then last night I was reminded of the truth - God's truth - and know that I can go on fighting.  That God's grace will carry me through, and His mercies are new every morning.

Today, I'm reminded of this song by MercyMe.  Oh, that I (and all of us) could see ourselves through God's eyes and know that we are beautiful!

Beautiful by MercyMe
Days will come when you don't have the strength
And all you hear is you're not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved
And if they truly saw your heart
They'd see too much

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful

Praying that you have the heart to fight
Cuz you are more than what is hurting you tonight
For all the lies you've held inside so long
But they are nothing in the shadow of the cross

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful, You're beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful

Before you ever took a breath
Long before the world began
Of all the wonders He possessed
There was one more precious
Of all the earth and skies above
You're the one He madly loves...
Enough to die!!!

You're beautiful, You're beautiful
In His eyes

You're beautiful!
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful!
You are treasured, you are sacred, you are His
You're beautiful!
You are made for so much more than all of this
You're beautiful!
You are treasured
You are sacred
You are His


Do you know you are beautiful?

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Refreshed Soul


Monday has almost gotten away from me.

And that's OK.

Because sometimes a person just needs to refresh their soul.

I know I do.  

Life is busy, overwhelming, and quite often difficult.  

This weekend was full of ups and downs.

Last night especially made me want to get in my car and just drive to get away from it all.

But I didn't run.  I stayed.  I took a chance that today would be better.

Today was good until 4 o clock rolled around and two customers were rude to me.

Then 6 o clock came and today took a turn.

It was time for refresHER.

refresHER is a ladies event put on by two local churches in the community.  It's a time for women of all ages to get away from it all, if even for just a couple of hours, and to engage with other women.  The evening is tailor made for us, from the lovely desserts to the awesome door prizes to the amazing speaker.  

This evening was exactly what my soul needed - to be refreshed - and has wanted for a couple of months now.  My spirit needed to be reminded that God loves me, created me unique, and wants me - all of me.

Every flaw.

Every imperfection.

Every. single. part. of. me.

Even when I don't want Him, He still wants me.

I can't even fathom that.

But it's true.

The truth is refreshing. It fills up the dry parts of my spirit. It quenches the thirsty parts of my soul.

Tonight, my cup runs over.

How was your day?  Where do you go when your soul needs refreshed?







Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Come Alive by Elora Ramirez: A Book Review



In Come Alive, Elora Ramirez pens the story of Stephanie Tiller, a young girl who clings to hope in the midst of the darkness that is her life. Abused from the age of 12 by the people who were meant to love and protect her, Stephanie struggles with self-worth and trust. She hopes for a better world, a place of healing, beauty, and love.

From page one, Stephanie's story captured my heart, shredding it to pieces. Her story is fictional, but she represents thousands of girls whose stories rarely, if ever, get told. As Stephanie tells Kevin, "The sky is screaming. The colors are begging us to notice. The reds dancing and making a soft shade of pink on the clouds' underbellies and the blue fighting for its own place in the sky. The morning sky will scream my discontent to a world not listening."

It's time to be silent and listen. Listen to Stephanie's story. Then listen to the stories of others around you. You never know. You might just change a life.

*****

I am honored to be a part of the launch team for Come Alive.  Elora is a beautiful storyteller, as you can tell from the above quote.  Her words are raw, haunting.  Yet they are filled with hope, beauty, redemption.  

That's why I'm drawn to Stephanie's story.  I cannot fathom the horrors she faced daily.  But I love her fight, the tenacity to not give in to evil.  I'm drawn to her ability to find the light in the midst of the darkness.  To see that there is hope left in the world.

Thanks to Elora's generosity, I was privileged to receive an advanced copy of Come Alive.  Because I believe stories can change lives, I am giving away a Kindle edition* of the book!  All you have to do is log-in to the Rafflecopter widget below and follow the steps to enter.  You earn points by leaving a comment on my blog, liking the Come Alive book Facebook page, liking Elora Nicole's writing page on Facebook, and extra points for Tweeting about the giveaway.  The more actions you perform, the more points you earn.  I will announce the winner next Tuesday, September 25.  Thanks, and have fun!

*You do not need to own a Kindle in order to receive the Kindle edition of the book.  You may download a FREE Kindle app for your PC, MAC, or smartphone.





Monday, September 17, 2012

Think on These Things


Monday. Monday. Monday.

24 hours can seem like a really long time on Monday.

Today was a typical Monday.  Got up, went to work, came home, ate dinner, and now it's time to relax.  As I reflect on today, I realize that Mondays are getting somewhat easier.  When my feet hit the floor this morning and I rushed around trying to get to work on time, my thoughts were intent on making today a good day.  My mind was telling me, "you don't feel good. Stay in bed.  Today's going to be a terrible day."  Instead of falling captive to those thoughts, I replaced them with these words, "This is the day the Lord has made. It's going to be a good day."

Taking those thoughts captive wasn't necessarily easy.  But it was necessary.  Choosing to focus on the good sometimes requires making our minds line up with the word of God.

Original Photo by: @Doug88888
Scripture tells us to think on these things - the true, noble, just, pure, lovely, and good.  Meditating on these things keep our minds healthy, focused.  Thinking on these things also helps our perspective shift, especially when life's circumstance try to bog us down.

In light of what Scripture tells us to meditate on, I've been thinking about an email I received from one of my friends today.  Her email was encouraging, uplifting, and affirming.  It alleviated some of my insecurities and assured me that I am in the right place.

Encouraging others is one way to make Mondays better for someone else.  

Meditate on that.

And put it to practice next Monday.

Who knows, it might even make your Monday better.

So how was your day?  What do you think about Scripture telling us to think on certain things?

Friday, September 14, 2012

Fuzzy Vision



Today I'm linking up with Lisa Jo Baker (aka Gypsy Mama) and lots of other folks from around the world for Five Minute Friday.  The rules are simple - set the clock for five minutes and write.  No editing, no backtracking.  Here goes nothing...

Focus.

Some days it's truly hard to focus on what needs to be done.  Today, for instance.  Instead of focusing on the job at hand, I'm writing this post.  :)  And I'm sure that my focus will be off for the rest of the day as I'm anticipating a night away with friends at a Hillsong concert and a day off in Cincinnati tomorrow.

While I'm sure that the things I'm looking forward to are going to be wonderful, I need to focus.  Focus is absolutely necessary in life.

Last Tuesday I had an eye exam.  It was a dilated exam, so for most of the day my vision was out of focus.  Things were fuzzy and my vision was skewed.  It was hard to do much of anything, so I took a nap hoping that upon waking my vision had returned.  No such luck.  Instead, I woke with a headache and a desire to just go back to sleep.

Life without focus can often be like getting a dilated eye exam.  It sounds silly.  But think about it.  Without focus, our purpose can be fuzzy.  Our perspective gets skewed, and we just want to give up and climb back into bed.

There's a scripture that says something to the effect that without vision people perish.  The scripture isn't talking about physical vision, but more along the lines of having purpose or a goal to focus on in life.

I'm reminded of another scripture that tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus.  Today, let's focus on Him and see what happens.

When your life seems out of focus, what do you do? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

How to Find Beauty on a Monday



Hello Monday.  We meet again.

Yesterday was an amazing day.  I might blog about it later this week.  Today, however, wasn't so amazing.  Today left me with a lingering headache and a desire to eat chocolate or curl up with a good book in bed.

Despite the headache, there was something beautiful about this awful, no-good, terrible day.  (OK, it wasn't that bad.)

But first, how does one go about finding beauty on a Monday (or any day)?

Here's how:
  • Choose to find something good throughout your day
  • Choose to focus on the positive rather than the negative things in your life
  • Choose to surround yourself with Godly influences and influencers

Notice a trend?  In order to find beauty in life, you must choose to find it.  It's not always easy.  But it's worth it.

“Nothing that’s worthwhile is ever easy. Remember that." ~ Nicholas Sparks 


Here are my beautiful finds for the day:


The bridge of Yochtangee Park
I love trees :)
What beautiful thing did you find in the world today?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Crooked Lines and Dizzyness


Today I am linking up with Lisa Jo Baker (aka The Gypsy Mama) and folks across the world who participate in Five Minute Friday.  Last week was my first time linking up, and I enjoyed it so much I thought I'd try it out again.  The task is simple - set the clock for 5 minutes & type.  No backtracking, no editing.  Just write and see what comes out.  Here goes...

Photo by: Quinn Dombrowski (Creative Commons)


Graceful.

When I think of someone who is graceful, I immediately picture a ballerina.  She is the epitome of grace with her long, lean lines.  She has the ability to leap across a stage and make it seem effortless.  She pirouettes around the stage, never stopping, never getting dizzy.  And she does it all in pointe slippers and a tutu.

If life is like a stage, I'm screwed. 

My lines are often crooked.  My steps are clumsy.  While I often feel like I'm going round and round in circles, I get dizzy and just want to stop.  (Nevermind that I wouldn't be caught dead in ballet slippers and a tutu!)

Thankfully, there's Jesus - Grace Giver.

The more I spend time with Him, the more graceful I become.  My crooked lines become straight and I can lean on Him when I am dizzy and feel like falling. 

When you hear the word "graceful," what do you imagine?  Are you graceful?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Judge by Randy Singer: A Book Review

When a brilliant billionaire is diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, he realizes that all his considerable wealth cannot prepare him to meet his Maker. But he has an idea that might: he will stage the ultimate reality show. With his true agenda hidden, he auditions followers from all the world’s major religions, inviting them to the trial of their lives on a remote island, where they must defend their beliefs against spiritual challenges.

Oliver Finney, a feisty old judge with his own secrets, is chosen to defend Christianity. As the program takes a strange twist, he quickly realizes he is trapped in a game of deadly agendas that may cost him his life. With Internet access monitored, Finney sends coded messages to his law clerk, Nikki Moreno. Aided by a teen crypto-geek, Nikki soon discovers the key to understanding Finney’s clues in an apologetics book Finney wrote and must race against time to decipher the mysteries contained in the ancient words of Christ before her boss dies defending them.
 

Randy SingerRandy Singer is a critically acclaimed, award-winning author and veteran trial attorney. He has penned more than 10 legal thrillers and was recently a finalist with John Grisham and Michael Connelly for the inaugural Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction sponsored by the University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal. Randy runs his own law practice and has been named to Virginia Business magazine's select list of "Legal Elite" litigation attorneys. In addition to his law practice and writing, Randy serves as teaching pastor for Trinity Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He calls it his "Jekyll and Hyde thing"—part lawyer, part pastor. He also teaches classes in advocacy and civil litigation at Regent Law School and, through his church, is involved with ministry opportunities in India. He and his wife, Rhonda, live in Virginia Beach. They have two grown children. Visit his website at www.randysinger.net.
 
 
*This review is a first for me as part of the Tyndale Blog Network.  I am so excited to be part of this book tour.*
 

The Judge is a fast-paced suspense-filled novel that leaves you guessing 'til the very end.  In a style similar to John Grisham, but with his own unique twist, Singer puts the world's major religions on trial.  Judge Oliver Finney is chosen to represent Christianity, and argues well inside the reality show courtroom as well as outside.  Yet it's what he does with his life that counts, and truly makes all the difference to his fellow contestants and friends.
 
Apologetics is a key element throughout The Judge.  It is the basis for Judge Finney's arguments for Christianity and against the world religions that he is up against.  The way that Singer weaves his case for Christ throughout is fascinating, and I often found myself caught up in the argument.
 
Matters of faith, however, are rarely won with words.  Saint Francis of Assisi is often quoted as saying, "Preach the Gospel. If necessary, use words."  His words ring true, especially in an age where words have a tendency to lose their meaning.  It is said that actions speak louder than words.  In matters of faith, there is no greater truth.  The actions of a believer are scrutinized much more so than their words, and for good reason.
 
Through all the twists and turns of The Judge, Nikki comes to this realization about Judge Finney:
 
"...as she read Judge Finney’s Bible... She had seen so many of the words of Christ exemplified by Finney’s life that the words themselves had a familiar ring to them — an almost-eerie feeling of deja vu."
 
If someone were to ask me how I would defend my faith, most assuredly I would say with my life.  While I am no where near perfect or resemble Jesus quite the way I should, there is no doubt in my mind that faith is best defended through actions over words.  At one point in my life, I would have argued differently.  But apologetics is no match for the way one lives out the Gospel.

How do you defend your faith? Do you believe words are necessary?
 
I was given a complimentary copy of The Judge by the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my honest review.
 
 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day Laziness


Hello Monday.  

It is a rare occasion for a Monday to be a holiday.  

Holidays are meant to be celebrated, especially when they fall on a Monday.  Holidays just make Mondays better.  Wouldn't you agree?

YES.  Holidays definitely make Monday better!

Today I had the opportunity to sleep in.  The day started off slow and easy.  I did a little housecleaning, laundry, and grocery shopping.  (Wait. You're not supposed to do those things on holidays, right?  Oh well.  I did.  And enjoyed it.)

Then my husband and I grilled out for dinner and invited over some friends.  We sat outside on the porch and enjoyed the evening, just hanging out and having a good time.

It was wonderful.

How was your Monday?  

Friday, August 31, 2012

Change is Inevitable



For the first time ever, I am linking up for Five Minute Friday with Lisa Jo Baker (aka Gypsy Mama).  The task seems simple - set the clock for five minutes and write until time is up.  No editing, no backtracking.  Just write and publish.  Here goes nothing...

Change.

If there is one word that causes me to freeze in fear and yet crave at the same time, it would be the word change.

I hate change.

But I want to change.

My heart's cry is that God would change me from the inside out.  That at the end of my life I wouldn't be the same impatient, stubborn, sin-filled woman that I am now.  I want a clean, pure heart.  My soul longs to be different.  To be closer to Jesus. 

They say that change is the one constant thing in this world.  And as much as that stirs a panic in my heart, I hope it's true. 

When you hear the word change, do you freeze in fear or do you embrace it?


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Let's Write a Short Story by Joe Bunting: A Book Review

A few months ago I declared to the world that I am a writer.  I shared how myself, my best friend, and my husband embarked on a journey late last year to write our first novel.  I've written more on my personal blog and even launched a fiction blog.  I sought out other writers and writing blogs, and joined a weekly Twitter chat group.  One of those writers was Joe Bunting who blogs at The Write Practice.

Last week Joe sent me a copy of his new book, Let's Write a Short Story.  The pages of this short 152 page book provide the reader with three powerful tools:


  • the motivation to dust off the old keyboard and start writing short stories (because that's how most of the literary greats got started)
  • the know-how to write good short stories (because sometimes a formula is necessary)
  • the resources to submit short stories for publication (because stories were meant to be shared, not kept hidden)
I'll be honest with you, I've never written a short story.  This book has given me new insight on short stories, so much so that I am declaring to the world that I will write and submit at least one short story by the end of September.

If you're a writer seeking to publish the next great novel of our time, pick up a copy of Joe's book.  If you're a wanna-be writer checking this whole writing thing out, read this book.  It's worth the four bucks.

You can purchase Let's Write a Short Story for the Kindle here, for the Nook here, or on the book's website here.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Let's Write a Short Story for my honest review.


Monday, August 27, 2012

Crazy Love In Action


Ahhh, Monday.  You've been good to me today.  Thank you.  :)

Sleep eluded me last night, and my fear was that I would drag all day long.  Thankfully, however, I did not.  I felt refreshed and well rested.  It was odd.  But I am thankful.

The work day was calm and peaceful.  One of my co-workers blessed me with a bag of M&Ms, which I happily shared with all.  

My plan for this evening is to simply relax.  I rented a movie - Gone, with Amanda Seifried - and hope it is good.

What really made my Monday was waking up to an email from one of my Centerpoint friends.  This past weekend my church sponsored our 4th annual Crazy Love Family Day.  It's a 100% free event for the community that was birthed out of a desire to give families in our area an opportunity to have a one day mini vacation.  This year we were able to give away 1300+ free hot dogs, bags of popcorn, cotton candy, and snow cones.  Kids jumped in inflatables, got their faces painted, rode horses, learned how to juggle and make balloon animals, and got to see an aerial acrobat show.  The adults were able to register for giveaways, and thanks to our awesome local businesses, we were able to give away over $1000 worth of free stuff!

The point of Crazy Love Family Day is to show the crazy, unbridled love of Jesus to folks who might never experience it anywhere else with no strings attached.  We don't preach at them.  We don't require them to come to church.  We don't stuff their mailboxes full of tracts or show up unannounced at their homes to witness to them.  We just show them love for four hours one Saturday a year in hopes that they will uncross their arms long enough to open up their hearts.

And it works.

Back to that email.

My friend shared in the email how one mother had been through the food line several times to get hot dogs for her kids.  On her third visit, she asked my friend if she could have a couple of hot dogs for the road.  The mother told my friend that she wasn't sure how she was going to feed her family that night, but now she did.  She told my friend that she didn't realize there were people/churches who existed and gave so selflessly.  Before leaving, the mother said she would see my friend again at church sometime.

My friend also shared a story about a father who had lost his job this summer and was unable to take his family on vacation.  He had been praying for an opportunity to do something fun with his kids before the end of summer when one of his kids came home with a flier for Crazy Love Family Day in their backpack.  He said it was an answer to his prayers!

One man simply said that the event restored his faith in God.

Wow.

These stories are just a few of the many I've heard over the weekend.  Add those to all the stories over the past four years and it is easy to see why crazy love in action is so important!!  

So, how was your Monday?  If you participated in the Manic Monday Challenge, please link up your blog in the comment section!